One small step.
One small step.
Absolved finally of taking a life, Charles Jackson now has his sights set on saving one.
Charles received the life-changing news at the end of last week that prosecutors in Cuyahoga County had finally decided to dismiss the charges against him for a 1991 double-shooting that left a man dead – a crime for which he had already wrongfully served 27 years in prison.
Last November, a judge in Cleveland overturned his conviction, giving him back his freedom but with the prospect looming that the state could decide to try him again.
The decision to dismiss the charges means that a retrial scheduled to convene this month isn’t going to happen, and that Charles officially joins the ranks of 27 other exonerees freed through the work of the Ohio Innocence Project, based in the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
(He was officially added to the National Registry of Exonerations on Wednesday. You can read his profile with full details of his case at http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=5605)
It also means he can travel to Jacksonville, Fla., where his nephew, Houston Foster, is now residing.
Houston Foster is suffering with advanced kidney disease, to the point he can no longer work nor travel. After testing this spring following his release, Charles turned out to be a match for donating the kidney that Houston needs.
Now he’s making plans for an extended trip to Florida for the transplant of one of his kidneys to Houston. Continue reading
Christopher Tapp, who spent two decades behind bars for the 1996 rape and murder of Idaho Falls resident, Angie Dodge, is expected to be exonerated this week. As reported in the Post Register, unreliable evidence — a coerced confession and testimony from a witness who later recanted and claimed police pressured her — prompted the jury’s guilty verdict in 1997. But Tapp’s nightmare is expected to end in a hearing before Seventh District Judge Alan Stephens on Wednesday, July 17, thanks to a newer use of DNA, genetic DNA analysis.
In prison Tapp maintained his innocence — the crime scene DNA did not match him — and unsuccessfully petitioned the courts five times for post-conviction relief. His recent sixth petition is supported by a filing from Bonneville County Prosecuting Attorney Daniel Clark, who has asked that Tapp’s conviction be vacated, opining, “There exists clear and convincing evidence that (Tapp) was convicted of a crime he did not commit.”
What caused this reversal of official response to Tapp’s petitions for relief? Genetic DNA analysis led to the identification of Angie Dodge’s across-the-street neighbor, Brian Leigh Dripps, who admitted he committed the crime, acted alone, and had never met Christopher Tapp.
A related news report by Local News 8 ABC reported that Idaho Falls Police Chief Bryce Johnson said genetic investigation led to someone in the Dripps family tree. Utilizing crime scene DNA, a genealogist identified three people in the Dripps family related to the suspect on a genealogy website. Police surveillance enabled retrieval and analysis of a discarded cigarette butt to confirm the DNA match with Brian Dripps. He has been charged with the crime.
Expanded use of DNA in genetic analysis resulting in the identification of the perpetrator is noteworthy in this tragic wrongful conviction case. Additionally, Tapp had agreed in 2017 to a deal with prosecutors in which he would be released from prison on time served with the rape charge dropped, but with the onerous murder conviction remaining on his record. On Wednesday along with Tapp’s expected exoneration, this later travesty of justice will also be rectified.
The Idaho Innocence Project is to be commended for pursuing justice in this case for a decade.
If you’ve followed the Ohio Innocence Project for an extended period of time, you are probably aware that summer is one of the busiest periods around the OIP offices.
The break between the end of spring semester in May and the beginning of fall semester in August is when students selected as OIP Fellows go through their most intensive period of working on cases that could be candidates for exoneration.
The 22 UC law students who are in this year’s cohort of Fellows have been joined by a group of international law students eager to gain exposure to the innocence movement in the United States. Continue reading
“Very rarely in life are we given a gift as precious as this one. It’s humbling to tell a story from people who have suffered so much, rallied so much and given us so much to believe in, in terms of what they are capable of in the best sense of survival.”
Survival. Perseverance. Justice. Renewal.
It sounds like the stuff of a screenplay. In this case, though, it’s opera, which introduces the creative possibilities of storytelling using music, story and song. The finished product, “Blind Injustice,” makes its world premiere this month. The much-anticipated production by the Cincinnati Opera in Music Hall’s Wilks Studio will have five performances between July 22-27, and all are sold out.
(A special preview event on July 17 at Allen Temple A.M.E. Church in Roselawn will feature several excerpts from the opera, along with a discussion with exonerees whose stories are part of the production and the creative team behind “Blind Injustice.” The July 17 event is free, but tickets must be reserved in advance.)
The opera is an adaptation from a book written by Ohio Innocence Project co-founder and director Mark Godsey. It explores the psychology behind wrongful convictions while also drawing on specific experiences from OIP exonerees.
For the creative team charged with developing the opera, it has been a challenging and emotional process. Continue reading
Since her initial acquittal in Italy and return to the US in 2011, Amanda Knox has never returned to Italy. She has remained busy getting along with her life, writing, and in supporting movements dedicated to the pursuit of true justice. Until now.
We wrote about the facts of her case on this blog in 2012 here.
She returned to Italy this past week to speak at the Festival on Criminal Justice sponsored by the Italy Innocence Project in Modena, Italy.
See the CNN story about her return here.
A record 1,639 years were lost in prison by those wrongly convicted and exonerated in 2018, according to “Exonerations in 2018,” the annual report of The National Registry of Exonerations (NRE). The 151 persons exonerated in 2018 spent an average of 10.9 years wrongly incarcerated before exoneration. The report highlights milestones, trends, and the year’s specific exoneration takeaways.
For example, in September 2018 the total number of years lost by exonerees exceeded the milestone of 20,000. As of today, that number is 21,095 lost years for the 2,418 persons known to have been exonerated since 1989.
One highlight of 2018 was an extraordinary 31 defendants exonerated as a result of the scandal in Chicago stemming from an era of police corruption led by Sergeant Ronald Watts in which defendants were framed by police on drug and weapons charges. Reinvestigation of these cases — 30 of which were drug crimes — prompted the exonerations.
The Registry notes contributors to wrongful conviction in each case of exoneration. The 31 Chicago cases were included in at least 107 cases involving official misconduct, a Continue reading
Clifford Williams and Hubert Myers were convicted of murdering a woman while they were at a party in Jacksonville, Florida. Two women were shot in a nearby apartment, one of them fatally. The men were quickly arrested, convicted and sentenced to life in prison after a 2-day trial.
The state of Florida has recently dropped all charges and freed them.
See the CNN story here: https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/29/us/florida-wrongful-imprisonment-42-years-murder/index.html
Six people convicted of brutally raping and killing an elderly woman, but none of them had any memory of the crime . . . because they were innocent.
And if that’s not bad enough, here’s the really scary part – the police actually convinced three of them that they were guilty!
See the story from the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/03/06/six-people-were-convicted-murder-they-didnt-even-remember-now-county-owes-them-million/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.51ac6b22a0a1
A landmark moment for wrongfully convicted Ohioans arrived today, promising a measure of justice and smoother integration back into society, when Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed into law House Bill 411.
The new law opens the door for a number of exonerees to receive financial compensation for the years they spent wrongfully imprisoned, and certain hurdles that in the past have thrown the question of compensation being received into question have now been removed from the process.
“Protecting the rights and freedom of our citizens is my top priority, and when those rights are violated we have a responsibility to take action,” said Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron), one of the sponsors of the bipartisan bill, along with Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati).
“Thanks to this bipartisan effort, Ohioans who have been wrongfully imprisoned will soon have a better path forward to reclaim their lives and receive the justice they deserve,” Sykes added.
The bill was sponsored in the Ohio Senate by Sen. John Eklund (R-18th District) and Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-28th District).
The new law specifically addresses those cases where convictions were obtained despite what are known as Brady violations. Those are cases where it is ruled that the prosecution illegally withheld evidence that could point to the real perpetrators of the crime.
“The collaborative effort behind House Bill 411 led to a narrow but important piece of legislation that drew bipartisan support in both chambers of the Ohio Legislature,” said Pierce Reed, program director of the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) and one of the most active advocates in helping the legislation to advance. “After more than a year of debate, the overwhelming majority of legislators recognized the impact of Brady violations on the lives of Ohioans and the need to provide eligibility for compensation to innocent men and women whose convictions were tainted by violations of their fundamental rights to a fair trial.” Continue reading
New Video Series Supplements Trainings for Law Enforcement and Others Working in Criminal Justice
The International Association of Chiefs of Police is joining the Innocence Project, the Ohio Innocence Project and other members of the Innocence Network to release a series of videos to educate law enforcement and criminal justice professionals about the psychological phenomena that can impede criminal investigations and prosecutions, and lead to wrongful convictions. The seven videos feature leading experts discussing how to recognize psychological factors, such as memory malleability and implicit bias, that affect investigations and prosecutions as well as highlighting some of the safeguards that can be employed to prevent wrongful convictions. The videos are available at law.uc.edu/human-factors.html.
IACP has been a leader in promoting reforms that reduce wrongful convictions, as far back as 2006 with the release of a key training on eyewitness identification, in 2010 and 2016 with the releases of model policies, in 2013 with the summit on wrongful convictions and in 2017 with the production of a roll call video series on eyewitness identification.
“Law enforcement officials are human and are susceptible to the same psychological phenomena that can adversely affect decision-making,” said Paul M. Cell, president of the IACP. “We are excited to be partnering with innocence organizations to make these videos available because education and training are critical to ensuring that these phenomena don’t adversely affect investigations.”
The videos focus on human flaws that have been proven to contribute to wrongful conviction, and ere designed to complement trainings for stakeholders from all corners of the criminal justice community, from law enforcement to crime lab personnel to prosecutors and defense lawyers.
“While these videos were designed to be used in conjunction with more thorough trainings, we wanted to make them more broadly available online so they are accessible at all times to remind people working in criminal justice to be more aware of the psychological traps that can undermine even the most dedicated and diligent actors,” said Mark Godsey, director of the Rosenthal Institute for Justice/Ohio Innocence Project.
Rebecca Brown, policy director of the Innocence Project which is affiliated with the Cardozo School of Law, added: “Presenting the psychological factors that contribute to human error in a neutral manner by experts with deep knowledge of the criminal justice system will hopefully encourage a dialogue among professionals, including police, prosecutors, forensic examiners, and defense lawyers, and encourage them to ask themselves and each other if any of these factors may be influencing their work.”
For online access to the videos and more information, visit law.uc.edu/human-factors.html. Below is a short description of the seven videos:
Confirmation Bias – Dr. Sherry Nakhaeizadeh explains how people tend to interpret evidence in a way that confirms their assumptions and preconceptions.
Memory Malleability – Dr. Elizabeth Loftus discusses how memory is constructed and how it is susceptible to being manipulated by false information.
Eyewitness Misidentification – Dr. Jennifer Dysart explains how memory affects identification and how to prevent eyewitness misidentifications.
False Confessions – Dr. Saul Kassin explains how interrogation techniques can cause innocent people to falsely confess to crimes they didn’t commit.
Lie Detection and Demeanor Evidence – Dr. Par-Anders Granhag exposes the myth that it is possible to tell whether or not someone is being truthful from their physical ticks and mannerisms.
Tunnel Vision – Retired Detective Jim Trainum explains the harm of focusing on a single or limited police or prosecutorial theory and seeking only evidence that confirms that particular theory.
Implicit Bias – Professor L. Song Richardson explains how personal experiences shape our views and can result in unintentional bias.
For inquiries about further information on this project, contact:
Julia Lucivero, 212-364-5371, email@example.com
Sarah Guy, 703-647-7226, firstname.lastname@example.org
Carey Hoffman, 513-289-1379, Ohio Innocence Project
(Editor’s note: The author, Carey Hoffman, is Director of Communications for the Ohio Innocence Project.)
Every parent aspires for the best for their child.
That was true for Rickey Jackson’s parents. It was also true for Harold Franks, the Cleveland salesman killed in 1975 that Jackson and two friends were wrongfully convicted of murdering.
Of course, it is just as true for myself and my wife with our two daughters.
That’s why I was pleased our youngest, Emily, a junior at Miami University, was going to have the opportunity to hear Rickey Jackson speak when he visited her campus in October as part of a program put on by the Miami chapter of OIP-u, one of seven chapters at Ohio universities that serve as undergraduate advocacy organizations affiliated with the Ohio Innocence Project.
The realities of four decades lost to injustice can become very hard to miss when their embodiment is sitting 15 feet away from you, telling you a story of a life’s journey that you’ll never forget. Continue reading
Only the people who have been through it can truly understand the experience of having been wrongfully convicted and sent to prison. But a new, 360-degree immersive video will allow viewers to gain greater understanding than ever before of what it is to “walk a mile in my shoes” when you are an exoneree who spent almost 40 years in prison.
That is the experience of Rickey Jackson of Cleveland, Ohio, who was exonerated in 2014. One of the longest-serving exonerees in U.S. history, the realities of his surreal, new post-prison life can be uniquely understood through the release of “Send Me Home,” a 360-degree video experience conceived and produced by Lonelyleap Film.
“Send Me Home” invites participants to take a journey in 360 degrees, as Rickey grants us entry into his private world, guiding us through time gone, family known and the spaces he lovingly embraces today. The 360-degree video transports participants into Rickey’s mindspace, urging them to reflect on the expanse of their own lives in relation to the time Rickey has lost.
Rickey was represented by the Ohio Innocence Project, which ultimately secured his release from a death sentence that began with a wrongful conviction in a 1975 murder case.
Today, Oct. 2, is Wrongful Conviction Day — the annual international observance dedicated to ending wrongful convictions and highlighting the plight of those convicted of crimes they did not commit.
This year, Wrongful Conviction Day is highlighting the role that racial bias plays in wrongful convictions and the efforts to fix the criminal justice system in its entirety. Created by the Innocence Network in 2014, Wrongful Conviction Day aims to raise awareness of the causes and remedies of wrongful conviction and to recognize the tremendous personal, social and emotional costs of wrongful conviction for innocent people and their families.
“Wrongful Conviction Day is not only part of a movement, it is also always a personal day for everyone who works on behalf of the Ohio Innocence Project,” says Mark Godsey, the OIP’s co-founder and director. Continue reading
That’s the phrase Robert McClendon will always be associated with. It was his reaction 10 years ago when DNA results were announced that conclusively cleared him of the rape charge that had cost him his freedom for the previous 18 years.
But, in this 10th anniversary year of that moment, Robert says they are not necessarily the words that stick out most in his mind from that day.
It was an exchange with Columbus Dispatch reporter Mike Wagner, whose reporting plays prominently in Robert’s story, that remains most vivid to Robert.
Heading into the proceedings to announce the results of the DNA comparison, no one was telling Robert what the results showed.
“No one would say anything about it. My family was bewildered, they were stunned,” Robert recalls. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, the results must have come back inconclusive.’ All kind of things were going through my mind, and I will always remember this conversation with Mike Wagner.
“Mike knew I liked basketball, and he was a high school basketball player himself, so he had said, ‘If you ever get out, we’ll have to play a game of 1-on-1.’ So no one is telling me anything, and then Mike walks by and he says the words I’ll never forget, ‘You ready for that basketball game?’ “
That is how Robert McClendon learned his 18-year nightmare was drawing to a close.
McClendon, Wagner and others involved in his case – along with fellow Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) exonerees Dean Gillispie, Laurese Glover and Nancy Smith – revisited his journey to justice this week during a panel discussion, “Hello Truth, Ten Years of Freedom” in Robert’s hometown of Columbus.
Also participating were Columbus city council member Jaiza Page, who served as moderator, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, Judge Charles Schneider of the Franklin County Common Pleas Court, former Columbus Dispatch reporter Geoff Dutton and OIP Deputy Director Jennifer Paschen Bergeron.
Robert’s case was a true landmark moment for the innocence movement in Ohio. Continue reading
The National Registry of Exonerations’ latest report reveals a staggering 20,080 years lost behind bars since 1989 by victims of wrongful conviction and, in an accompanying report, $2.2 billion in compensation paid to exonerees by governments, even though more than half of exonerees have never been compensated. Radley Balko of The Washington Post provides this informative preview opinion of the soon-to-be-released report. Thanks to the National Registry of Exonerations for revealing indisputable data that continues to be a blaring, heartbreaking call for criminal justice reform.
After a 32-year battle to clear his name, Su Pin-kun can finally claim the title of “exoneree.”
Su’s saga to gain justice has been one of the best known in all of Taiwan. Working with the Taiwan Innocence Project, his full exoneration was finalized with an overturned verdict on Aug. 27.
Su, now age 69, was originally sentenced to serve 15 years after being found guilty on charges of robbery and attempted murder in 1987, based on the testimony of a co-defendant who had pled guilty. Yet Su has steadfastly maintained his innocence from the time of his arrest, despite being subjected to treatment during interrogation that included waterboarding, sounding an air raid siren while it was being held to his ear and repeated kicks to the area of his waist.
Being aware of how Su was being treated, his co-defendant confessed to the crimes to avoid similar punishment. He subsequently recanted both his own confession and absolved Su of any guilt in later court hearings. Continue reading
With a new position in the Philadelphia Office of the District Attorney, former Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) attorney Carrie Wood knows that, although the title has changed, her goal—as the old TV saying goes, to protect the innocent—is the same.
Wood’s move from the OIP to the district attorney’s staff isn’t as dramatic a change in direction as it sounds. She is an assistant district attorney, but her assignment is with the office’s Conviction Integrity Unit.
The emergence of conviction integrity units (CIUs) is a response from within the justice system to the irrefutable evidence that has come forth through the Innocence Movement that the system is not infallible, and that sometimes those convicted and imprisoned are truly innocent.
Wood has landed her new position in Philadelphia at a particularly interesting time. A new, reform-minded district attorney, Larry Krasner, won election to the office last November. Krasner’s career experience is as a civil rights attorney and public defender.
We have previously addressed the subject false confession a number of times on this blog. Please see False Confessions – How Can That Happen? One of the very egregious cases of false confession we talked about was that of Marty Tankleff, who at 17, was manipulated by police interrogators into falsely confessing to the murder of his parents. After 18 years of wrongful imprisonment, Marty became a lawyer; and a law professor.
Marty has recently authored an article on CNN about false confessions by teenagers, who are particularly vulnerable.
Please see the CNN story by Marty Tankleff here.
Robert Rihmeek Williams may be free but millions of other young, black and brown men just like him are not—and that’s no coincidence. After a lengthy legal battle and an outpouring of national support, the 30-year-old Philadelphia rapper better known as “Meek Mill” was released from jail on April 24. The hip-hop star was sentenced last November to two to four years behind bars for a series of minor, non-violent probation violations, following his 2008 conviction for drug and weapons charges. One of the violations included performing a motorcycle stunt while shooting a music video in New York in August 2017.
The sentence sparked mass outrage among fans, celebrities, professional athletes, prison reform activists, and the hip-hop community at large. Hundreds of thousands of people protested in Philadelphia, signed online petitions, and stood behind the #FreeMeekMill campaign. They argued that the harsh punishment was unwarranted and rooted in racism. For many, the hip-hop star became a symbol of discrimination within the U.S. criminal justice system, which predominantly impacts men of color.
Following his release last week, Williams vowed to help others trapped in the cycle of recidivism. “I understand that many people of color across the country don’t have that luxury [to fight justice] and I plan to use my platform to shine a light on those issues,” he tweeted.
Williams’ case is not unusual. According to reports, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. After being convicted of a crime, offenders are then often subjected to parole or probation and years of court-ordered supervision. As a result, even a small violation can send them back to prison for a long time. This policy disproportionately affects African American men who compromise one-third of the 4.6 million Americans currently on parole or subject to probation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Overall, 1 in every 15 African American men are incarcerated compared to 1 in every 36 Hispanic men and 1 in every 106 white men. But, not only are these men being stripped of their time and families, corporations are making billions of dollars in exchange for their freedom.
Read about the corporations making a profit on other’s freedom Here